When it comes to keeping your kids busy at home, have you thought about books?
“Of course, I’ve thought about books!” you groan to your computer screen. “In fact, the last two weeks of isolation have been nothing but books! I’ve read out loud until my voice is hoarse. I’ve played audio books until I can’t even hear myself think. I’ve read textbooks, and storybooks, and craft books, and cookbooks. My kids are probably so sick of books, they won’t want to touch another one for a year!”
This is NOT a post suggesting that you should read more to your kids. There’s tons to be said in favour of family reading, and if social distancing is making you read more, then you’ve already found at least one silver lining. But when I asked if you’d thought about books, I was really envisioning something a little more creative. So here’s my offering to the beat-isolation-boredom movement: 10 ways to keep you kids busy with books (without reading aloud to them!)
1. Colour-Code Your Bookshelf
This is a fun project for readers of all ages. Let your kids re-organize your bookshelf based on the colours of the book bindings, to create a vivid rainbow across the shelf. You just might find it helps people put their books back in the right place, too!
2. Create a Bookworm Catalogue
For this activity you will need a large sheet of paper or Bristol board, and a number of small paper circles in different colours. Children can create these circles by tracing around a tiny glass, or other small circular object. Decorate one circle to represent an inchworm’s head. On each of the other circles, write the title (and optionally the author’s name) of one book from your bookshelf. Beginning with the “head,” assemble the catalogue by gluing the circles onto the Bristol board, slightly overlapping each circle, to create a long snaking “bookworm” across the page.
3. Begin a Family Library System
I have fond memories of my childhood “library,” complete with membership cards and a list of books taken out along with the required return dates. Give your children plenty of room to implement creative ideas, along with the fun of creating the membership cards, and maybe even deciding on some “fines” for overdue books. (Or would Mom rather have fines for the books that get left on the living room floor?)
4. Host a Bookmark Party
You can never have too many bookmarks. Okay, maybe that’s a slight overstatement! But if we all want to do our part in conserving hygiene products right now, the stick-a-tissue-in-to-hold-your-place trick isn’t going to be an option! Hosting a bookmark party at the kitchen table doesn’t call for anything more than some paper and a pack of crayons (although older kids would probably be more than grateful for some old scrapbook supplies or a pair of fancy scissors.) Embellishing bookmarks with Bible verses, poems, or quotes from favourite stories can be a productive assignment as well.
5. Build a Book Tower
Building a tower or a pyramid out of books can be a simple as stacking them from largest to smallest, or as complex as a model of a real-life structure. It also gives a fair bit of exercise. (Dictionaries aren’t all that light to carry around!) And your children just might learn a few principles of physics in the process.
6. Create a Magazine Scrapbook
This suggestion comes to us from the 1909 book Housekeeping for Little Girls by Olive Hyde Foster, who suggested that old magazine articles can be cut out and arranged in topical scrapbooks that make wonderful gift ideas. For more details, see our previous post, “Finding Blessing by Using What You Have.”
7. Set Up a Book Hospital
Books and children sometimes result in catastrophes. Whether it’s a page torn out of a picture-book by an excited toddler, or the cover falling off an elementary student’s favourite novel, most homes contain some books that have met with accidents. Setting up a book hospital turns mending them into a game. Scotch tape is probably the standard repair medium. I do have one childhood favourite that was fixed with duct tape, but that one was in really bad condition, and we couldn’t find any other tape in the house. It did the job, although it wasn’t ornamental. Repairing with glue is a more difficult task, that probably requires substantial adult supervision.
8. Complete a Book Scavenger Hunt
Embark on a scavenger hunt through your bookshelf. For this activity I have created two downloadable PDFs, the first for picture books and the second for novels (or non-fiction or wherever else you have to go to find your answers!) The picture book hunt features easy-to-read words, each of which the child is to locate in the illustrations of any picture book on your shelf. Each word can be marked with a checkmark after it has been located. For the novel hunt the student should include the book title (and possibly the page number, for an added challenge) of the volume where each item was found.
9. Start a Duplicate Book Project
Do you have multiple copies of the same book lying around your house? This might be an excellent opportunity to start a donation project. Your church library, or possibly a local school or public library, might be happy to receive the books you have doubles of. Or possibly a friend would enjoy owning these books. Actually donating the items might need to wait until libraries are open again, but getting the collection together is the first step. Decorating a family donation box can become a fun craft project, too.
10. Create Your Own Audio Book
Most computers or phones include an easy-to-use recording software. Let your child create their own audio book by reading the text of one of their favourite stories aloud. If the book is still under copyright, make sure this recording is used for family purposes only. On the other hand, if your book is in the public domain, you just might be able to make it available to others, as well! Creating an audio file to go along with a picture book can be a great project for an older child, allowing them to provide hours of entertainment to younger brothers and sisters. Using a musical instrument or other distinctive sound to tell the child when to turn the page can add an additional sparkle to the recording.
Keep Your Kids Busy with Books!
So if you are cooped up at home with . . . well . . . not much more than the books on your shelves—don’t despair! There is more than one way to let your books keep your kids busy in the house!
I’d love to hear what creative ideas you have been implementing to make the most of enforced days at home. Just leave a comment at the bottom of this page!
Looking for motivation to embark on some of the books you read years ago? See our previous post:
- Two Days at Windsor: A FREE Short Story from SAW Publishing
- Yes, I Believe in Good and Great Books!